Adolescents (10–19 years) and young people (20–24 years) continue to be vulnerable, both socially and economically, to HIV infection. This is particularly true for young women and adolescent girls who either live in settings with an HIV epidemic or who are members of high-risk key populations. In 2012, there were approximately 2.1 million adolescents living with HIV. About one-seventh of all new HIV infections occur during adolescence, and AIDS remains the 2nd largest killer of adolescents worldwide and the number one killer of adolescents in Sub Saharan Africa; despite declines in other age groups.
The toll of HIV and AIDS continues to be harsh, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2015, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for the vast majority of the world’s people living with AIDS, new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths. In this region, HIV is spread primarily through heterosexual sex. The virus disproportionately infects adolescent girls nearly three times more than their male counterparts in the same age group (15 to 19 years).
There is a need for a tailored approach that includes biomedical and structural interventions. HIV treatment isn’t enough to qualm the epidemic amongst adolescents. There is a significant need for comprehensive, adolescent-friendly HIV prevention, including biomedical, social and structural interventions. Effective prevention in this age group can help break the cycle of HIV transmission.
Adolescence is a key transitional period of life. Adolescents and young adults in South Africa are in a transition period, where they are facing continuous biological, social and behavioural development. This period has a strong association with increased risk-taking behaviour, increased vulnerability to gender-based violence, and a minimal ability to negotiate sexual circumstances. As a result, this group is at an increased risk of HIV infection.
The DTHF has worked in Masiphumelele, an under-resourced community south of Cape Town, for more than twelve years. The YC is a project that grew from this relationship in response to the needs of local, young people. The goal is to give adolescents the tools and the confidence to make healthy life choices and assist them in developing their potential.
The YC does this through offering a safe, healthy environment where youth aged 12-22 from diverse communities can gather, learn, and play and access friendly sexual and reproductive healthcare.
- Hannan Crusaid Adolescent HIV Programme
Children who are infected with HIV need particular support and encouragement if they are to manage their health. It is important that an attractive, child-friendly environment is created to encourage the youth to return for assessment and to receive their medication.
The clinic runs a dedicated adolescent programme for older children and youth on Tuesdays and a paediatric service for younger children on Wednesdays. A nearby container has been renovated and equipped as an activity room for their use. More than 350 children and adolescents are currently enrolled in these programmes.
The Zimele project is aimed at helping youths between 10-24 years. It provides healthcare services and outreach tailored to adolescent needs, alongside educational support and social empowerment. Zimele aims to equip these people with life skills to deal with puberty, adulthood and give them tools for success.